Visual Expression v. Words

I keep a couple of blogs, partly to test different online tools, partly to track different parts of my life.

This blog obviously logs my thoughts about technology, education and the mix of the two. It’s full of words – lots of words. Occasionally, I toss in a picture or two. I try to do more, but I am wired as a wordy person.

I do have a Tumblr blog that I use for photos. I’m trying to teach myself to take more interesting pictures with my phone. Obviously, I don’t post much, and I tend to post mostly garden photos. It’s fun, but it’s mostly an exercise to push myself in a different direction.

My daughter also has a Tumblr blog. It’s quite different from mine. It’s her way of expressing thoughts, ideas, feelings, likes, dislikes, frustrations, passions and more. She’s quite active on the blog – finding visuals that express how she’s feeling, creating some herself, and even her words have a visual feel to them. It’s a completely different experience than looking at my blog of words, yet you can easily get a good sense of who she is as a person.

Yet, she’s trapped in a school system that forces her to read pages and pages of dense text, with hardly a visual present. Her homework: all words. While she is actually developing into quite a good writer, I often wonder what she could do if she were allowed to express her learning and understanding using visuals.

Fortunately, she was able to add an art class to her course load this year. We let her do Physical Education this summer (online) because the class at school was a total waste of her time and bordered on abusive. Art = way better option.

It’s Not Just Me!

Wow – I’m not alone in my dislike for AP History courses. As I was doing some research to submit a proposal to an education technology conference, I ran across an interesting “Roundtable” on about AP history courses.

Seems even AP History teachers aren’t always fond of AP courses. Their reasons sound quite similar to mine:

  • too much content too fast
  • teaching to multiple choice tests doesn’t teach anything
  • survey course doesn’t allow deep, meaningful work
  • etc. There are many more good reasons.

As a professional historian, I find these broad survey courses to be worthless. Does a student need to have a general sense of history? Of course. Do they need to learn this much this quickly? No way.

I’d much rather see students learn to understand the present through the past. Select a current event. Find the relevant history that brought us to where we are today. Dig deep. Find primary sources that build an argument and explain a situation. Give me a History Day project over an AP test any day.

I will be bringing this up at a curriculum night at the school. I fear I will be hooted out of there for daring to question their precious AP classes. I just find it interesting that 5 of the 6 teachers presented in that roundtable dislike the AP classes.


Not Yet

If you’ve read my posts about our disruptive innovation project, the iPad Project, where we purchased an iPad for our 7th grade son to take to school, you’ll know that we met resistance, yet have worked with the school so that he’s allowed to have it.

Being the fair parents we are, we asked our 10th grade daughter if she wanted one. Her school is working towards a BYOT policy, but as the previous post stated, the mindset at her school is far from ready for this.

I have to say I was impressed with her response. While of course she’d love her own iPad, she said there’s no way she could have it at school yet. Teachers weren’t ready, wouldn’t let her use it. Kids would make a big deal out of it. She’d never really get to use it.

I guess that disruptive innovation project will have to wait. In the meantime, my daughter misses out on all the great things that can happen with approriate use of learning technology.

Bring Your Own Learning Technology – or Pencil

Bring Your Own Learning Technology

I saw that phrase in an article from the Columbus, Ohio paper about schools using cell phones in class. It’s a great way to set an atmosphere in a school about cell phone use.

I’m sure not seeing this in my kids’ schools yet. One district is moving in that direction – they have a draft of a BYOT policy, and plans to move that way. However, in talking to my daughters 5 teachers this trimester, it is very obvious that the mindshift that has to happen has not.

There are signs posted in each classroom about no cell phones. Teachers talk about how they confiscate phones that are out. When asked, teachers only talk about the distraction factor. (hmmm – maybe their class is boring?)

I also asked if they post class materials and schedules online. Wow. One teacher said he didn’t know how to, he’d never been trained. (Failure on the school’s part.) Another teacher told me – brace yourself – that it was important for students to learn to WRITE DOWN the assignments to get ready for college.

That shocked me to say the least. So, I got online and messaged a couple of friends who are professors. Yes, real professors at real community colleges, small liberal arts schools, and major universities. Guess what. ALL OF THEM use online course management tools. Every one of them posts class information, resources, schedules and more online. It is expected. Students manage to manage their learning – even with the horrible crutch of having the material online. I guess this high school teaching students to write things down – as opposed to teaching them to manage their learning online – is really getting them ready for college (uh, sarcasm mine.)  



Pic Monkey

I found a new friend to make my life easier.

I do a fair amount of simple photo editing, like resizing, cropping, etc., for the various websites I help manage. It is not always convenient to go to my main computer to launch Photoshop, and who can afford to have Photoshop installed on all devices? 

Don’t get me wrong. I do love my Photoshop. But you don’t always need layers, effects and so on. However, some of the other “simple” photo editors don’t let me do the resizing and cropping the way I want. I want pixels, dammit! Don’t talk to me about 3 x 5 prints!

Pic Monkey to the rescue. A Chrome add-on or stand alone, Pic Monkey gives me pixels! Lets me resize, crop and edit happily.

I’m happy.